The Life of the Lord Jesus Christ

By Johann Peter Lange

Edited by Rev. Marcus Dods







the prophet in his own city of nazareth

(Joh 4:43-44; Luk 4:14-30; Mat 4:12-13; Mar 1:14; Mat 13:53-58; Mar 6:1-6)

The land of Galilee has received its name from a district on the northern borders of Palestine, in the tribe of Naphtali, which was very early so called.1 This circumstance, that the whole land of Galilee received its name from that region which latterly was distinguished as Upper Galilee from Lower Galilee, is of importance for this section, as well as for other passages in the Gospels. Probably the original Galilee, in the mouth of the Jewish people, was emphatically called Galilee; and according to the Israelitish mode of expression, persons might go from Lower Galilee to Galilee, as any one might go from Geneva to Switzerland, or from Berlin to Prussia.2

According to Josephus,3 Lower Galilee was divided from Upper Galilee by a frontier which went from Tiberias to Zabulon. According to the direction of this boundary line, Nazareth belongs to the province of Lower Galilee, while the Cana designated Kana el Jelil by Robinson as our New Testament Kana most probably belongs to the province of Upper Galilee.4 Most decidedly Capernaum is situated within the borders of Upper Galilee.

From what has been said, it may be explained how Matthew could write that Jesus, ‘leaving Nazareth, came and dwelt at Capernaum,’ and that then was fulfilled what was prophesied by Isaiah of the Messianic visitation of Galilee of the Gentiles.5

In the same way the difficulty may be disposed of which is found in the Evangelist John, when he writes, that Jesus, after spending two days at Sychar, departed thence and went into Galilee,—to Galilee, for He Himself had testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country; and when the Evangelist, notwithstanding these words immediately preceding, observes, that Jesus was very well received by the Galileans.6

From Samaria Jesus turned His steps to Nazareth, His wonted residence, where His mother still lived with His relations. But here He found, even from the first, no very agreeable reception, and a momentary admiration of His personality (Matt. 13:54) soon gave place to a decided aversion. They rejected Him, and Jesus then uttered these words, which have become a perpetual proverb : No prophet is accepted in his own country (Luke 4:24).

The Evangelist John, according to the plan of his work, might not narrate the incident ; yet he slightly hints at it, since he has assigned the cause why Jesus did not take up His abode at Nazareth, but went to Galilee Proper (Old Galilee), in his own words.

Matthew also at first only mentions the circumstance (4:12, 13), that Jesus left Nazareth and settled in Capernaum. But afterwards he recurs to the incident which occasioned the Lord s making this change in His residence. That this is the same incident which we find related much earlier in Luke, can admit of no doubt. Matthew was induced by his peculiar arrangement to bring it in so late. He has formed no connection of events which forces us to consider his narrative as referring to a later period.

Mark does not mention the change of residence; but he also narrates the same incident which is reported by Matthew (6:1) in a combination of events, indeed, which is to be taken as an indefinite connection.

But the Evangelist Luke gives to the history its correct chronological arrangement, if we except the inexactness already spoken of, which we find in all the synoptic Gospels ; namely, that the return of Jesus from the wilderness is not distinctly separated from His later return from Judea. Luke is obviously occupied with this latter return. According to Matthew and Mark (4:12; Mark 1:14), it was caused by John’s being east into prison; according to John, there was this in addition, that Jesus could not carry on His work uninterruptedly in Judea.

That the synoptists could not mean the return of Jesus from the wilderness, is plain from the circumstance that John was not then east into prison. But they might also not mean the second return of Jesus from Jerusalem, which John 6:1 presupposes; for this time He soon hastened over the Galilean Sea, near the east coast, while the former time, according to the three first Evangelists, He spent a longer time on the west coast. John, too, about this time had been already put to death. The synoptists therefore have reported the same return of which John gives us an account in the fourth chapter.

On the way to Nazareth Jesus everywhere appeared as a teacher in the synagogues of Lower Galilee, and His fame always went before Him7 (Luke 4:14, 15). Accompanied by the disciples He had already gained, He entered His own town. Here He laid His hands on a few sick persons and healed them, as Mark tells us.

But he immediately remarks, that the unbelief of His countrymen constantly counteracted and repressed the joyfulness of His spirit, so that, according to the truth and delicacy of His divine life, He could not do many miracles in this spiritual sphere. Thus, already troubled in spirit by their obtuseness, He entered on the following Sabbath into their synagogue.8 Here He gave an address.‘ After the custom of the ancient synagogue, persons in whom confidence was placed, even though they were not Rabbis, might give addresses in the synagogue. They stood while reading the word of God. The servant of the synagogue presented the roll, and then the reader, when he finished the section, gave an address. A passage from the prophets was joined to a section from the books of Moses.9 Jesus therefore stood up to read the prophetic section which was in order, according to the synagogue-service. ‘This happened to be the prophet Isaiah ; and for this Sabbath the section which He found on opening the roll was the remarkable prophecy of the Spirit’s anointing of the Messiah, Isa. 50:1. Thus it came to pass that, according to the regulations of the synagogue, He was obliged to read the words, which He certainly could not have read by an evasion of these regulations, without arousing the displeasure of those old acquaintances who already undervalued Him10—‘The Spirit of the Lord is in and upon me: hence He has anointed me (and officially appointed me). He has sent me to announce glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted11—to announce deliverance to the captives, and sight to the blind; to set at liberty them that are bruised—to proclaim the acceptable (the beautiful, great jubilee) year of the Lord.’12

After the solemn delivery of these words, which He not only read from the roll, but also uttered from the depths of His inner life, He rolled up the book, gave it to the servant, and sat down. Everything that He said and did made so powerful an impression on the hearts of the persons present, that all eyes in the synagogue were fastened upon Him. And He began to speak to them respecting the glad tidings. This day, He said, is this Scripture fulfilled in your cars, His compassion flowed forth to them with the holy words of Scripture and in His exposition of them, for they appeared to Him as those poor, and blind, and bound, and bruised ones to whom He was sent. And it seemed for a while as if their cold hearts would be thawed. ‘They began to testify to the power cf His Spirit, and wondered at the gracious words that streamed from His lips.

But the ignoble feelings that mastered them soon produced a reaction against the salutary impression, and destroyed it. The unconscious self-contempt in which the earthly-minded man moves in his state of torpidity, does not allow him easily to arrive at the joyful belief, that close by his side, out of his own circle and the poor materials of his present condition, a higher life may possibly break forth, and even a heavenly messenger proceed. He is therefore tempted to put down the highest experience of this kind by the mean, the common, to disown the prophet, although he feels his spiritual power, because he appears in the form of a peasant, to whom he can as little attribute spiritual life as to himself. To this temptation the inhabitants of Nazareth succumbed. ‘The first indication of altered feeling was shown in their beginning to look upon His peculiar gushing spiritual life as a strange, far-fetched scholastic learning, and initiation into the qualifications for miracle-working. They asked, Whence hath this man all these things? What is this wisdom (what school) which has been given to Him? and whence is it that such mighty works are performed by His hands? Is He not the carpenter, son of Joseph the carpenter? We know quite well how His mother is called, they would again go on to say, asking in jest, Is she not called Mary? And then they would proceed to count His brothers on their fingers—James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas; and even His sisters they cannot leave out in the reckoning. In this manner they were scandalized at Him; that is, they took an offence at His parentage which was fatal to them.

As soon as Jesus remarked this change, He said to them, ‘Surely ye will repeat to Me the proverb, “ Physician, heal thyself!”’ Te explained His meaning. They seemed at first to desire to see such deeds as, according to the generally spread report, He had performed at Capernanm; they seemed to expect that He would unfold all His powers of healing in His own city, and thus as it were heal Himself in the persons of His countrymen, in order to induce them to do Him homage more decidedly ; in fact, He ought first of all to free Himself’ from the meanness of His own family relationships, if He expected them to regard Him as the Saviour of the nation.13 But He specified to them plainly the obstacle that withheld Him from working miracles there; namely, the sad fact that a prophet was held in no esteem in his own country, among his own kin, and in his own house (Mark 6:4). And then He justified His reserve by great examples in the Old Testament. The first example was this: there were many widows in Israel during the great famine in the time of Elias, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months;14 but to none of them was Elias sent as a preserver but to a Gentile, the Sidonian woman at Sarepta. The second example was the miraculous cure of the Syrian captain, Naaman. There were indeed many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, Dnt none of them were healed by the prophet, excepting the Syrian.

So far the Jews had already in ancient times rejected the salvation which their prophets would have bronght to them, and left it to strangers. he people of Nazareth must have felt the force of these examples. But they seemed to regard it as intolerable that He should compare them to the unsusceptible and the neglected, and even to idolaters among the Jews of former days, and that He should compare Himself with those great prophets. They were also offended at His taking histories from the Old Testament which seemed so very favourable to the heathen. Thus they gave themselves up to the ebullitions of an anger which, without their perceiving it, confirmed most completely the judgment He had expressed. In a paroxysm of rage they expelled Him from the synagogue, which amounted to excommunication; they thrust Him out of the city, which was equivalent to outlawry, the deprivation of the rights of citizenship. They even wished to deprive Him of life, and for that purpose led Him to a height on the edge of a precipice in order to cast Him down headlong. But at the critical moment the Lord displayed an operation of His personal majesty, which more than once in hazardous circumstances paralyzed His enemies and preserved His own life. He retired from among those who had hurried Him before them to that spot—so suddenly, so quietly, and yet with such dignity, that, awe-struck, they involuntarily formed a passage for Him. He therefore walked freely through them.15 He quitted His beautiful home as an outlaw. From its heights He had often surveyed the rich extent of His inheritance,—towards the magnificent plain of Esdraelon ; towards ‘the round top of Tabor,’ and the opposite mountains of Samaria—the long line of Carmel; towards the Mediterranean, first of all to be seen far in the south on the left of Carmel, then interrupted by that mountain, and again appearing on its right; towards the beautiful northern plain and the northern mountains of Galilee, among them the mountains of Safed overtopping them all, on which that place is seen, ‘a city set upon a hill;’ farther towards the right, ‘a sea of hills and mountains’ backed by the higher ones beyond the Galilean Sea, and in the north-east by the majestic Hermon with its icy crown.16

From this sanctuary of His childhood He was now expelled. The inhabitants of Nazareth therefore commenced the rejection of Jesus, which afterwards became almost universal ; since Judea, and even the whole earth on a larger scale, was the home, the Nazareth of this Prophet, which disowned Him in His poor human appearance. He was now separated by the ban of His countrymen from the consecrated home of His noble mother, to which, during His official life, He was always so glad to return. This probably occasioned His relatives afterwards to leave Nazareth. But the disfavour of the people of Nazareth could not prevent the Galileans from receiving Him with great joy; for the beautiful festive-time of enthusiastic welcome, with which His people had met Him, was not yet come to an end.



1. Both Neander and Von Ammon place the expulsion of Jesus from Nazareth after His reception by the Samaritans. But the ingenious supposition of Von Ammon, that ‘the hospitable reception given to Jesus by the Samaritans contributed greatly to His unfriendly reception at Nazareth,’ is destitute of proof.

2. By means of the above distinction between the provincial and the political and geographical meaning of the name Galilee, the differently which expositors have found in John 4:44 might be obviated. The Evangelist, as well as Matthew (iv. 12), under the strong influence of the provincial mode of expression, presupposes a contrast between the home circuit of Jesus and Galilee, and forms his phraseology in ver, 44 according to this contrast. In this way the different ingenious attempts to explain the passage in question are disposed of. See Lücke's Commentar, i. 613. That Jesus, by His own country in which He had no honour, could not mean Judea, although He was born in Bethlehem, is sufficiently evident (apart from the favourable reception He met with in the land of Judea) from the matter-of-fact relation which lies at the basis of the declaration of Jesus. It was not because the prophet is born in a certain place, but because he has grown up in it, that his countrymen are accustomed to regard him as their equal, and thus he becomes unimportant to them. Besides, the Jews did not know much about the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem, 'Tholuck explains the difficulty by considering the γάρ as explanatory of the following clause, and translating it by ‘namely” J.Chr. Hofmann explains the γάρ in a peculiar manner (Weissagung und Erfüllung, p. 88). He supposes that Christ, in consequence of the Sanhedrim’s regarding both the Baptist and Himself with the same rancour as if they were one, was induced to avoid, for the present, notoriety and a crowd ; and hence it was best that He should go to His own home, for a man whom God has called to a great service is nowhere so little esteemed as in his native place. But had it been possible for this motive to have determined Christ to go into Galilee, His plan, as the text directly shows, would have been altogether defeated.

3. ‘The town of Nazareth, says Robinson, ‘ lies upon the western side of a narrow oblong basin, extending about from S.S.W. to N.N.E., perhaps twenty minutes in length by eight or ten in breadth’ (Biblical Researches, ii. 333). Hofmann remarks (Weissagung und Erfüllung, ii. 65), that the radical meaning of the word נֵצֶר, according to Isa. 14:19 and 60:21, seems to be a shoot or sapling, and draws the inference, ‘Since Nazareth lies in a basin surrounded by hills, &e., it might have its name from this, since it was placed there like a sapling in a hole.’ Hengstenberg, in his Christology, expresses the opinion that Nazareth was marked by this name as a weak sapling in contrast to a stately tree. ‘There was so much greater inducement to give this name to the place, because the symbol was before the eye in the vicinity. The limestone hills of Nazareth are covered with low bushes (see Burekhardt’s Travels, ii. 583). Therefore the name might mean, the place of shrubs, or a shrub. Yet, on the other hand, what Schubert says of the vegetation of the vale of Nazareth (iii. 170) seems to contradict this. As to the locality where they were about to cast Jesus down, Robinson remarks: ‘From the convent (which is said to cover the spot where the Virgin lived) we went to the little Maronite Church. It stands quite in the south-west part of the town, under a precipice of the hill, which here breaks off in a perpendicular wall forty or fifty feet in height. We noticed several other similar precipices in the western hill around the village. Some one of these, perhaps that by the Maronite Church, may well have been the spot whither the Jews led Jesus that they might cast Him down headlong. . . . The monks have chosen for the scene of this event the Mount of the Precipitation, so called ; a precipice overlooking the plain of Esdraelon nearly two miles south by east of Nazareth. Among all the legends that have been fastened on the Holy Land, I know of no one more clumsy than this, which presupposes that in a popular and momentary tumult they should have had the patience to lead off their victim to an hour's distance, in order to do what there was an equal facility for doing near at hand’ (Biblical Researches, ii. 335). But it is not to be denied that the text of the Evangelist allows us to reckon upon a distance between the city and ‘the brow of the hill’ (ὄφρτύς). ‘ They thrust Him out of the city,’ it is said, and led Him or drove Him unto, &c. Then the question is, whether we are to read ἕως ὀφρύος or ἕως τῆς ὀφρύος? The manuscripts here differ, Lachmann reads ἕως τῆς. If, in this definite sense, some one commanding mountain height is sought for in Nazareth, a precipice near the city, appearing similar to many others, would not suffice. Then it may be asked, whether the vale of Nazareth is reckoned as belonging to the mountain on which the city was built, so that the whole mountain range is spoken of, or whether we are to translate ἐφ’ ὸὗ on which, so that that particular hill is meant which overhung the city. If we decide in favour of the first supposition, then that precipice overlooking the plain of Esdraelon belongs to the mountain range of Nazareth. Robinson has shown that the legend in question is of late date as a historical tradition, and of no value. It is another question, whether it has not been formed as a hypothesis, and as such is again to be considered? That ‘casting down headlong,’ which they intended to perpetrate, would at the same time represent the symbolical expulsion from their borders. Now, since He had come thither from Samaria, the men of Nazareth would point Him the way He came if they led Him in the direction of the rock of the legend. That precipice of the legend is, according to K. von Raumer (Palästina, 134), 80 feet to the first ledge, and to the bottom, 300 feet.



1) Compare Josh. xx. 7, xxi. 32. גָּלִיל originally denoted a circle, hence a boundary, the environs of a country, Thus, in’ Josh. xiii, 2 and Joel iii, 4, the ‘Lorders? or ‘coasts,’ גְּלִילוֺת of the Philistines, are spoken of. In Josh. xx. 11 we read of the ‘Dorders’—Geliloth—of Jordan, But in a more definite sense, the district round the mountain heights of Naplitali appear to have been designated as Galilee, ‘This Galilee was more distinctly descried as Galilee of the Gentiles (Isa. ix, 1), since there probably the Jewish and Gentile towns lay together in a district which exhibited a geographical unity.

2) By "Galilee of the Gentiles"; is commonly understood the northern part of the land, or Upper Galilee,’ —Forbiger, Handbuch der Alten Geogravhic, ii, 689.

3) De Bello Jud. ii, §1.

4) In the exegesis of John’s Gospel 2 counterpart has been sought to the Cana in Galilee; see Lücke's Commentar, i. 468. Since Kefr Kenna, which tradition has pointed out as the Galilean Cana, lies in a southern district, so this might be in the province of Lower Galilee, and, according to our supposition, that Upper Galilee was pre-eminently called Galilee, night form the counterpart, especially since the two , places were not far from one another, The denomination might be used to distinguish it from Cana in the tribe of Asher; for it also belonged to the politically defined Upper Galilee, though it was not situated in the original Galilean circuit.

5) With this a difficulty is solved, which Bruno Bauer (Aritik der Evang. Geschichte, i. 93) has urged with a self-complacent prolixity,—when he remarks that the Evangelist knew not that Nazareth was a city of Galilee, We saw before, in opposition to the above-named critic, how a person might go from the wilderness into the wilderness : we see here how it was possible to go from Galilee to Galilee. The expression in Luke iv, 31, He came from Nazareth to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, is also to be explained in the same way.

6) Even at Capernaum itself the district of Cana seems to have been regarded as Galilee in the strictest sense, as appears from John iv. 47. Hence the conjecture may be hazarded, that that district on which Cana Try, adjacent to a round mountain, had been the original circuit, the Galil, from which the province takes its name (Rolinson). Accordingly John’s mode of expression might be regarded as a provincialisin,—as when, for example, a Zuricher says, I am not going to Hutli but to Albis, ‘To any other Zurieher this would be intelligible, since on the spot Albis is distinguished from Hutli; but not by a distant geographer, since he would join Hutli with Albis.

7) [Fame, and whatever depends on the communication of man with man, varies with the density of the population. The description of Galilee by Josephus (Bell. Jud. iii, 3) gives one the idea of a fat, prolific land, swarming with inhabitants. ‘The cities,’ he says, ‘lie close together, and the multitude of villages everywhere through the land are so populous that the smallest contains upwards of 15,000 inhabitants,’ The distinction between cities and villages given by Lightfoot (Hor. Heb. Matt. iv, 2) is in itself interesting, as giving us a glimpse into the civilization of the Jews, and, in connection with this section, useful. ‘What is a great city ? That in which were ten men of leisure. If there be less than this number, behold, it is a village.’ —ED.]

8) The κατὰ τὸ εἰωθὸς αὐτῷ,’ says Olshausen, ‘does not refer to an earlier time. Why not, since Jesus had already been engaged above half a year in His public ministry ? Indeed, why should not the expression refer to the simple attendance on the Sabbath, to which Jesus had been accustomed from His youth? Bruno Bauer (i. 255) ascribes to the narrative of Luke the intention of relating the first appearance of Jesus, that he may raise a contradiction out of the expression: ‘as His custom was.’

9) Olshausen, Commentary, ii. 148. [Lightfoot (Horœ Hebr. on Matt. iv. 23) is very full on the customs of the synagogues. In conclusion he says, ‘By what right was Christ permitted by the rulers of the synagogue to preach, being the son of a carpenter, and of no learned education? Was it allowed any illiterate person, or mechanic, to preach in the synagogues, if he had the confidence himself to do it? By no means. But two things gave Christ admission,—the fame of His miracles, and that He gave Himself out the head of a religious sect.’ Lightfoot should be consulted also on Luke iv. 16, where he illustrates the reverence shown for the law by the standing posture of the reader.—ED.]

10) This is contrary to Olshausen’s remark : he thinks that Jesus was guided by the Spirit in finding this passage, with a deviation from the order of the synagogue. [But Lightfoot shows that, while in the reading of the law no deviation from the established order was allowed, it was permitted to select a passage from the prophets.—ED.]

11) The words ἰάσασθαι τούς συντετριμμένους τὴν καρδίαν are wanting in many manuscripts and versions; [and are omitted by Tischendorf and Aliord].

12) The Evangelist has given the passage freely according to the Septuagint—we have altered the common punctuation according to Breitinger’s edition of the Septuagint. The Evangelist has introduced the words ἀποστεῖλαι τεθραυσμένους έν ἀφέσει from Isa, lviii. 6; for καλέσαι he has chosen the more pregnant tern κηρύξαι. On the relation of this mode of quotation to the doctrine of inspiration, see Olshauscn on the passage. [Olshausen has no ground from these quotations for saying that the inspired writers “confused passages and mistook words.’ At the most they show that they quoted from the LXX., and freely amalgamated similar passages so as to bring out a new meaning, which is surely consistent with the strictest theory of inspiration, Had the writers of the New Testament not been conscious of the sacredness of their task and the infallibility of their guidance, they would probably have shown themselves more scrupulous in their dealings with the Old Testament—ED.]

13) See Olshausen, ii, 155,

14) In Jas. v.17 the time is also given as three years and six months, On the contrary, in 1 Kings xviii. 1 a time is fixed which reaches only to the third year, Olshadsen remarks (p. 156), that the difficulty is removed if the time is reckoned, not from the ceasing of the rain, but from Elijah’s flight, ax Benson has proposed (compare what De Wette says on the other hand, p. 35). The ease seems to be thus explained : lf the Jews reckoned according to the circumstances of their country, how long the drought must have begun before the begriming of the famine, which would not begin immediately with the drought, they would probably be obliged to add a year to the time of the famine in order to determine the time of the drought, But Elijah appears to have gone to the brook Cherith at the beginning of the famine (1 Kings xvii. 3), and the date in chap. xviii, seems tu refer itself to the symbolic moment of the beginning of the famine.

15) See Hase, das Leben Jesu, p. 117. What Strauss has remarked against it is unimportant, i. 478. There are several faint analogies of this event ; for example, the well-known history of Marius and of the soldier who was to have put him to death, &c. [Robinson (ii. 335) says, ‘There is here no intimation that His escape was favoured by the exertion of any miraculous power? Alford, on the contrary, says, ‘Our Lord's passing through the midst of them is evidently miraculous. Ellicott inclines to the same opinion (Mist, Lee. 160, note). No doubt His escape was due to His being a divine person; yet there seems no necessity for attributing to Him in this instance the exercise of a power solely divine, and which is not commonly used among men, but only the higher exercise of a natural, human power. It is quite conceivable, and in keeping with other instances in His life, that He held His enemies at bay by the dignity of His bearing, until He was beyond their reach, Surely we are not asked to believe that He was rendered for the time invisible.—ED.]

16) See the beautiful description of the view from the hill over Nazareth in Robinson's Biblical Researches, ii. 336, [Move fully described by Dr Wilson in his Lauds of the Bible; and very eloquently by Renan, Vie de Jésus, 25-28.—ED.]